On one occasion, René Magritte, a famous Belgian surrealist painter, wrote an annoying critic a, on the whole, rather funny letter, containing the phrase
‘Tout le monde m’assure que vous n’êtes qu’une vieille pompe à merde …’.
Now, in the letter, I thought it to be rather funny as well.
When I read it in a message my wife sent me over Facebook Messenger, the joke was spent on me.
In communication, the factors that influence the impact of the message – and I’m not trying to be exhaustive here – are: the contents, the identity of the messenger, the tone, the facial expression or other non-verbal cues and the context (both in time and space).
So why did I have a hard time in finding my sense of humour, for something that was obviously meant to be a prank?
The contents was offensive indeed.
The fact that my wife sent me this was shocking.
There was no extra tone and there were no non-verbal cues.
But the context became a bit clearer after a quick Google search that revealed the origin of the sentence.
That it came from a Belgian also was a clue.
Oh, and that I received a ‘I love you hearts panda’ right after the Magritte quote should also have been a self-explanatory sign.
Yet it obviously was not enough.
Somehow it struck a chord that was nor ready, nor willing to be struck.
And there was the undeniable fact that I had been – quite literally – an old fart the preceding fortnight.
So feeling like a sewer that’s being flushed during heavy rainfall did little to brighten my mood.
Being assailed by physical discomfort when already down on the mental front leaves you defenceless and ill-prepared for any, additional surprise attack. Even for an unexpected, even innocent pin prick.
Anger directed at my wife could be nothing else than futile. As every husband knows.
So where did I have to aim my poisonous arrows instead?
Pondering the remark for too long or too deeply would be to no avail, I knew.
Yet the discomfort lingered on in the background as an insidious snake hissing in my ears, troubling me with vague ideas about what paradise should look like.
Vous n’êtes qu’une vieille pompe à merde.
And after a good nights rest & fully recovered, I didn’t give a …